Salt Flat Rookies Set Speed Record At Bonneville, Part 1

Nick’s Word: The Bonneville Salt Flats supply a pure however complicated problem, and who higher to sum up that problem than my gifted good friend Gregg Bonelli? Right here, the verbose Bonelli discusses Bonneville, report setting, classic challenges, and the success of a rookie workforce aboard a “extremely modified” Yamaha TZ350. Tune in subsequent week for the second installment of “The Salt Bug.”

For those who’ve been browsing, you understand not each set of waves yields a very good journey. It’s an effort to struggle the waves on the seashore and get out past the shore break so you’ll be able to flip round and await the one you hope is coming that will provide you with a journey well worth the effort. For some who race classic bikes, Bonneville is like that. If that’s what issues within the ocean of issues you’ve got finished with a motorbike, then it’s essential to go there.

When you’ve seen bikes ridden to world-document velocity, you’ll have to determine for your self when you’ve got what it takes to try this. It isn’t for everybody. Maybe you solely have some obscure understanding of the way it’s carried out. When you do, you must know that it may be costly, a waste of effort and time, and you may die within the course of.

There isn’t any prize cash, only a timing slip and a certificates of verification from the timing physique confirming that you simply now maintain the report for no matter class it may be. The listing of obstacles to setting a document is lengthy, and the record of document holders is brief. It requires one thing distinctive from these of us within the racing world that is just too a lot hassle for all however the really devoted.

Chris Glaister and Jeff Henise are really devoted. The previous is a design engineer and the latter is a analysis chemist, however each have an curiosity in bikes and velocity. They collaborated this previous season within the design, development, and driving of a report-setting Yamaha TZ350-powered motorbike that set two land-velocity data its first time at Bonneville.

Early within the constructing levels, I noticed on Jeff’s Fb web page, the place he documented the trouble, that he was planning to make use of a Yamaha twin. I’ve many left over from my competitors days and know him from his championship season of classic roadracing with a membership through which I officiated.

I launched myself to him at a race in Alabama after listening to some unhappiness circulating that his self-made machine merely couldn’t be authorized. It was the ultimate meet of the yr and by profitable he clinched the championship. My journalistic nature sensed a narrative, and I went to research. Whereas there had by no means been something prefer it earlier than, the naysayers had not learn the rule e-book as intently as he had and have been incorrect about Henise’s bike being non-compliant. The bike was authorized.

Somewhat than beginning with an present motorbike after which looking for the perfect class to race in, he had chosen a category after which made a objective-constructed machine from scratch, body and all, even casting his personal chrome-bore cylinder. Whereas the principles allowed a motorcycle prefer it, such a factor had by no means earlier than existed. This offended some purists. Nostalgia is one factor however the guidelines are made for competitors, which is one other.


To race classic bikes, some homage have to be paid to the previous in any other case you’re simply poking individuals with energy and a few take it badly. All guidelines have inherent structural issues in any case, and the problem of classifying classic bikes into grids of enough measurement to be economically possible whereas classing them to be mutually aggressive is doubly troublesome. Some points should do with security, some with updates that made the previous methods of constructing issues out of date, and a few with elements which are merely not out there. Regardless of the will to race once more on the bikes my associates and I raced 50 years in the past, the realities are sufficient to maintain it from ever occurring once more. We should always all keep younger perpetually too, however that’s not going to occur both.

Nonetheless, the previous is all the time with us, and I’m reminded that we within the classic motorbike world are linked to at least one one other in numerous obscure methods. Chris and Jeff named their machine the “Orange Hen” in honor of Don Vesco’s Silver Hen and in recognition of his contribution to the game typically and Bonneville particularly. The report that they determined to problem had stood for forty years and was set at 159.9 mph by Brian Erickson. Whereas these of us who’ve by no means set a document might imagine the decimals are trivial, getting it proper is likely one of the issues that separates those that have executed it from those that don’t actually perceive what it means.

The rule guide having been digested and the goal having been established, they started the method of designing a machine to perform their ends. Jeff had beforehand accomplished such a venture to turn into a 250cc roadrace champion so the bones of the deed have been recognized. The particulars of this problem have been a thriller, nevertheless, regardless that that they had seen it finished. The human creativeness is a spectacular factor, and there are as some ways to do issues as males can consider. When it comes to bikes meant to go quick, some might look quick however by no means truly be quick whereas others, which can appear to be they eat turnips and should even be referred to as “The Turnip Eater,” show to be document-setting machines.

Engineers are likely to assume much less romantically so the combining of exhausting numbers and intuitive considering made the challenge a labor of measurement, calculation, and welding for Chris and Jeff. Additionally they had pleasant collaboration with quite a lot of notable builders and velocity racers within the space together with Ralph Hudson, a world report holder, and Invoice Woods who had additionally made a laydown chassis up to now. Each have been indispensable of their counsel and help and hats are tipped right here to them for his or her benevolent good will. Ralph is so good natured about such issues that his identify has been put ahead for a knighthood, and whereas all of us agree that he has he correct bearing and character to be worthy of the distinction, none of us are fairly positive who to speak to about it.

In the long run, Chris and Jeff shared the work and are gracious concerning the credit score, every giving the opposite full measure except for the engine construct which was completely carried out by Jeff. He in flip acknowledges the technical perception and help of Wayne “Wobbly” Wright, who was liable for Jon Ekerold’s 350cc GP world championship engines. Jeff didn’t simply construct the motor and the enlargement chambers, nevertheless, he constructed it on-line with everybody watching. Within the course of, he turned a manufacturing engine for a commuter bike into a fireplace-respiration, eleven-port, reed-valved monster making greater than twice its unique horsepower. As soon as the work was lastly executed, they set off for the salt with out the posh of a check experience, having run utterly out of time.

I donated a motor to the undertaking after talking with Jeff about my curiosity in writing concerning the course of and discovering out that I had a classic set of instances that may be helpful. My classic connection was not simply with him, nevertheless; it stretched again over time to the day I first acknowledged a motorbike as a tool related to hurry. I knew about velocity already from automobiles, my household having generations of Detroit dealerships in its previous. My mom had bragged typically that her ’36 Ford would run one hundred mph after which complain that it wanted that many once more to be stopped. The household went to the Indianapolis 500 yearly and Gasoline Alley, the place they labored on the automobiles in rows of picket garages open on one finish so you might see males making issues, bolting them collectively, after which wheeling them out to the monitor to see how briskly they’d go.

I grew up there, a minimum of the racing a part of me did, and from 1958 by way of the large hearth in flip four on the opening lap of the 1964 race, I had the ambition to be a driver there. That very same yr, Roger Reiman was clocked at 149.seventy eight mph on an overhead-valve single-cylinder Harley-Davidson at Bonneville. I noticed an advert in a magazine about it and was impressed, having watched the much more refined 4- and eight-cylinder Indy automobiles barely handle one hundred fifty in qualifying. Many years later, after he and I had each retired from lively competitors, we shared a campfire and some beers one night time at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Street America street course swapping racing tales. Whereas his accomplishments have been far higher than my very own, we had widespread acquaintances and tales to inform about them over our lengthy careers.

His remark about it at that distance was that he was most grateful he had not been the one to construct it as a result of he wouldn’t have recognized the place to start. “They will wobble,” he famous, as if none of us would know that, “they usually can fall over.” There was a little bit of silence afterward because the dozen or so of us sitting round listening to him imagined what it may be like to slip down the salt at one hundred fifty mph trapped in a metallic tube. Having by no means tried it, none of us had something so as to add so we sipped our beers. We have been as removed from that kind of claustrophobia as one may get, beneath the starry sky of the Northwoods however nonetheless, even there, the considered it gave us all pause.

How do you go about constructing your self a report-setting velocity racer? I’ve requested myself that query after watching the unimaginable number of issues that run at Bonneville. Then too you could have encountered a velocity wobble whereas driving and been rattled by it, not being positive what induced it or find out how to keep away from it. I actually left dents within the sides of a Kawasaki GPz750 fuel tank at Daytona because the evil snake almost killed me. No quantity of muscle or willpower can maintain a poor design regular and if I’m constructing one thing to run broad open for a number of miles, I don’t need to discover out that it’s going to start out some unmanageable oscillations if a crosswind upsets it or as a result of I can’t keep in mind whether or not it’s time to steer left to go proper or not.

Half 2 Subsequent Tuesday!

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